Over the last several years I have spent a lot of time with successful and profitable cloud partners, and one of the best practices that comes up relative to sales and marketing is the importance of building brand via thought leadership and social media. This fact was validated through the Successful Cloud Partners 2.0 IDC research in 2014.
Successful cloud partners have discovered that in a competitive environment they need an edge on their competition. Customers are savvy and do a lot of homework online before selecting a vendor, so it’s really important that you put your best foot forward and make an investment in building out your online presence by leveraging blogs, Twitter, video, and webinar content and finally by pulling it all together with an effective website. As I’ve been finding my own voice, I’ve talked with successful partners and followed social media leaders – here are my 10 favorite tips to help get you started establishing your brand through thought leadership:
  1. Develop your own voice and blog about what you know: I am a relatively new blogger myself. I write all of my own blogs, and I focus on topics that I am comfortable discussing based on my expertise.

  2. Involve your whole team: A lot of partners think their company’s blog should only be authored by their CEO. Instead of this, think about how you can get your whole team involved! Customers want to know that the partner they are working with has deep expertise. When a partner’s CEO, technical team, and consultants are all blogging, it provides customers confidence in the capability of the partner.

  3. Leverage idle or non-billable time of consultants and technical teams to build content: Several partners I’ve chatted with have suggested as a best practice to leverage the idle or non-billable time of their consultants to blog on hot topics or curate new video content. This is a great way to get more of your employees involved and make use of downtime between projects.

  4. Consider running internal contests to encourage your team to blog more: “We encourage all of our consultants to blog. Often we have contests to help incent our consultants to blog more.” — David Greve, Microsoft Cloud Strategy National Director, Perficient.

  5. Develop blogs focused on different topics of interest, verticals, or areas in which you want to show thought leadership: Perficient does a fantastic job of this – check out their Thought Leadership Blogs page on their website. They have 14 active blogs with topics ranging from digital transformation to vertically focused blogs centered on healthcare and financial services.

  6. Consider developing bylined articles to help build your brand: Bylined articles offer an opportunity for you to go where your customers are learning about technology.

    “We do a lot of bylined articles. I had a bylined article in ‘Wired’ a little while ago, and we just had one in ‘Chain Store Age’ magazine. I would say once a month we have some thought leadership piece out there. It continues to build presence and awareness and it drives some inbound traffic.” — Alex Brown, 10th Magnitude.

  7. Leverage speaking engagements to their full extent: Speaking at customer and industry events offers a great opportunity to establish your company as a thought leader. Make sure that you get full mileage out of these opportunities by promoting them via Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook leading up to, during, and after the event. Leverage event hashtags, post pictures and meaningful quotes from your speaker, and thank the sponsor for having you.

  8. Utilize YouTube: It is no secret that buyers are leveraging YouTube more and more to make purchasing decisions. An important strategy of your thought leadership campaign should be thinking about how you are leveraging video to get the word out on your company and what you bring to the table. Research also says that videos perform better if they’re short, sweet, and to the point!

  9. Don’t underestimate the power of a good webinar: As you think about marketing in the cloud, make sure you are making use of as many one-to-many forums as possible to increase your reach, especially if you are selling into SMB. They are inexpensive to run and should always be recorded so that you can post them on your website, generate leads, and establish your thought leadership. Remember to keep them short and sweet!

  10. Get full mileage out of your thought leadership content by amplifying it on social sites including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and bringing prospects back to your website: This one is pretty obvious…you need to make sure that once you have content, you have a plan to push it out to your prospects and customers.

    “Our website drives good activity. The reason we get a lot of leads is we’re very active on Twitter and blogging. We provide fresh content that’s relevant. When we email it’s all around interesting knowledge leadership rather than the ‘buy now’ type messaging.” — James Butler, MD, Cloud Business.

I hope you found these tips useful! I would love to hear your best practices and questions related to partner profitability. You can reach me via email at jsieger@microsoft.com, via Twitter or on LinkedIn.
Until next time,

Jen

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